BUCHAREST, Romania – BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum says the refusal of Romania's central bank to withdraw a coin bearing the image of a prime minister who stripped Jews of their citizenship before World War II is "insensitive" to the memory of Holocaust victims.
The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the decision and urged President Traian Basescu Friday to ensure that information about the anti-Semitic actions of Miron Cristea is included with each coin.
The museum in Washington, D.C., said Cristea's tenure as Romania's premier from 1938 to 1939 "marked the opening of a systematic campaign of anti-Semitic persecution by successive Romania governments that resulted in the devastation of the Romanian Jewish community during the Holocaust."
"We are shocked and disappointed that the National Bank of Romania has decided to honor Miron Cristea, even after consideration of his anti-Semitic actions and statements," Anti-Defamation League director Abraham H. Foxman said.
The U.S. ambassador to Romania, Mark H. Gitenstein, added his voice to the criticism Friday, saying he was "very disappointed by the decision ... to issue the coin."
As prime minister, Cristea was responsible for revising Romania's citizenship law, stripping about 225,000 Jews — 37 percent of the nation's Jewish population — of citizenship.
Some 280,000 Jews and 11,000 Roma, or Gypsies, were killed during the pro-fascist regime of dictator Marshal Ion Antonescu, who was prime minister from 1940 to 1944 and executed by the Communists in 1946.
"The fact that some Romanians were surprised by this criticism indicates that they remain unaware of or insensitive to well-documented historical events that happened here," the ambassador said in a statement.
Only about 6,000 Jews live in Romania today.
A commission set up by Romania's National Bank to reconsider the coin said Thursday it would not be withdrawn because it was minted as one of five to commemorate Romania's five patriarchs, or leaders of the Romanian Orthodox Church, which Cristea headed from 1925 to 1939. The bank said the coin was not intended to be anti-Semitic.
Holocaust Museum Director Sara Bloomfield called the bank's decision "misguided" and "insensitive to the memory of the victims, and inconsistent with the progress Romania has made in acknowledging its past."
Today, anti-Semitic activities are illegal in Romania.